by Virginia Smith
Parkland shooting survivor Dimitri Hoth speaking at the Florida legislature on Feb. 21, 2018: “We, the students, will make a difference.”
With heavy hearts, dozens of Democrats Abroad members gathered for a vigil near Toronto’s U.S. consulate on the sunny Sunday afternoon after the deadly rampage at Stoneman Douglas high school in Parkland, Florida. The consulate’s U.S. flag stood at half-mast as DA members voiced their determination that, this time, strong positive measures to control the sale of guns would have to follow the usual expressions and symbols of grief.
Democrats Abroad Toronto vice-chair Danielle Stampley said that the vigil was an occasion to express solidarity with the victims and survivors of the shooting and to launch action for change: “This is not acceptable. We have been acting as though nothing can be done. We can do something about this. Let’s commit to taking action.”
Vigil participants read out the names and short descriptions of the victims. The list included students and teachers, boys and men, and girls and women, who ranged in age from 14 to 49:
- Alyssa Alhadeff, 14, was a soccer team member who had just had what her mother called “the best game of her life” on Feb. 13.
- Martin Duque Anguiano, 14, was freshman who, according to his brother, was “a very funny kid, outgoing, and sometimes really quiet.”
- Scott Beigel, 35, was a teacher who brought students into his classroom before he was killed himself. One parent says that Mr. Beigel saved her son’s life.
- Jaime Guttenberg, 14. Her father posted on Facebook: “I am broken as I write this, trying to figure out how my family gets through this.”
- Aaron Feis, 37, was a football coach who also attempted to save students. A graduate of the school, he always tried to help those who were struggling.
- Nicholas Dworet was a high school swimmer who visited the University of Indianapolis recently. He said that he wanted to swim there after his graduation this year.
- Christopher Hixon, 49, was the school’s athletic director and a prominent figure in high school sports in Florida.
- Luke Hoyer, 15, was an aspiring basketball player. “He loved his family, he had a huge heart,” said his cousin.
- Cara Loughran, 14, was an excellent student. Her aunt wrote on Facebook: “We are absolutely gutted…..while your thoughts are appreciated, I beg you to DO SOMETHING….”
- Gina Montalto, 14, was said to be a member of the school’s winter color guard team. A Facebook tribute to her said: “we lost a beautiful soul tonight.”
- Joaquin Oliver, 17, played basketball in the city’s recreational league. He was also a writer who filled a notebook with poetry.
- Helena Ramsey, 17, would have started college next year. A relative wrote on Facebook: “…she had a relentless motivation toward her academic studies…”
- Alaina Petty, 14, was a member of a volunteer group with the Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter-day Saints. She helped with clean-up work after Hurricane Irma.
- Meadow Pollack, 18, was a senior who planned to go to a nearby college next year. A relative said that “she was a very strong-willed young girl who had everything going for her.”
- Alex Schachter, 14, played the trombone in the school’s marching band. His father said that “he was a sweetheart of a kid.”
- Carmen Schentrup was a National Merit Scholarship semifinalist. Her cousin said in a Facebook post that she was the smartest 16-year-old that he had ever met.
- Peter Wang, 15, helped his cousin, Aaron, to adjust when Aaron started living in Florida. “He was always so nice and generous,” said Aaron.
After the reading of the list, Toronto chapter chair Julie Buchanan said that “Canadians care about this shooting too.” She stressed the need to get out the vote and to vote out the politicians who take money from the NRA. Hamilton chapter chair and former Democrats Abroad chair Ken Sherman sadly recalled a gathering of DA members in Toronto after the 2011 shooting of U.S. House of Representatives member Gabby Giffords. Sherman read a statement by Democratic National Committee (DNC) chair Tom Perez, which stressed that people should not be afraid to go a shopping mall, baseball field, or movie theater. Sherman, who is a member of the DNC, called on Congress to enact a ban on automatic rifles and to enhance background checks
Democrats Abroad Canada Steve Nardi ended the vigil by stating the firm resolve that “this has got to stop.” He called on Americans living in Canada to encourage other Americans to go to votefromabroad.org so that they can vote this year for political leaders who will enact measures to protect U.S. communities from deadly violence.
The Democrats Abroad vigil was covered by CTV, CBC, and CP24. DA’s pledge to take action for peace is being heard. Will it be heeded?
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